PM sought to 'hide' siphoning: Bishop

Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop is ramping up her attack on Julia Gillard's conduct as a lawyer in the 1990s, accusing the Prime Minister of creating the ''stolen vehicle that the bank robbers took to the bank''.

Ms Bishop told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday that when Ms Gillard was a partner with Slater & Gordon, she set up a union association, which saw money siphoned out by her then boyfriend Bruce Wilson and fellow AWU official, Ralph Blewitt.

''The reason [Ms Gillard] didn't open a file within Slater & Gordon ... was because she and Wilson and Blewitt wanted to hide from the AWU the fact that an unauthorised entity was being set up to siphon funds...'' Ms Bishop said.

''She created the stolen vehicle that the bank robbers took to the bank, to rob the bank.''

Ms Gillard has maintained that she only provided legal advice about the set up of the AWU Workplace Reform Association and did not know anything of the fraud that followed.

She has consistently denied any wrongdoing and yesterday in a second ''marathon'' press conference on the AWU affair, she said claims she set up the fund were defamatory.

This morning, Ms Bishop said: ''I am able to say that Julia Gillard set up an unauthorised incorporated association that was in breach of the laws of Western Australia.''

Ms Bishop also called on the Prime Minister to ask the AWU and Mr Wilson to get Slater & Gordon to release all the documents they hold on the matter, ''so that that this matter can be thoroughly investigated''.

This follows a similar request from Mr Blewitt, calling on Mr Wilson to release Slater & Gordon from client privilege.

This comes as the law firm released a statement, defending its actions over the AWU affair and confirming it cannot ''divulge confidential and privileged information of one client to another client or any other party''.

Responding to questions about why Slater & Gordon did not notify the police or the AWU when allegations surfaced about Mr Wilson in 1995, the law firm said: ''At all times it has acted in accordance with its legal and ethical obligations in relation to all aspects of the AWU matter.''

Slater & Gordon said it had also sought independent legal advice from law firm Arnold Bloch Leibler and Philip Crutchfield SC on its conduct.

Both sets of advice - received yesterday evening - found that Slater & Gordon did the right thing by ceasing to act for the AWU and Mr Wilson when it became aware there was a conflict between the interests of the two.

Ms Bishop has been spearheading the attack on the Prime Minister about the AWU affair, yesterday asking all the Coalition questions in question time.

Speaking to reporters on her way into Parliament on Tuesday morning, Ms Bishop said it was entirely appropriate that she, not Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, lead the charge.

''I'm the Deputy Leader of the opposition and I happen to be a lawyer with 20 years experience,'' she said.

''Why are you suggesting that Tony Abbott has to ask the questions? I am the deputy leader of the party.''

Yesterday, Ms Gillard dismissed Mr Blewitt as a key witness against her in the matter, noting he had been described as a sexist pig, fraudster and imbecile.

Ms Bishop said that she had met Mr Blewitt in person last Friday for about ten minutes, also describing him as a ''self-confessed fraudster''.

Today, Trade Minister Craig Emerson called on the opposition to debate issues such as the budget and disability policy instead of concentrating on the AWU matter in Parliament.

''The Australian people are thoroughly sick of this,'' he said. ''It's frankly pathetic.''

Dr Emerson said that it had been 1022 days since Ms Bishop, the shadow minister for trade, had asked him a question about his portfolio.

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